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How to clean to fight COVID-19? Vinegar won’t work, University of Alberta expert says

Should we clean our smartphones during the coronavirus outbreak?
WATCH ABOVE: In the midst of the new coronavirus outbreak, everything around us can seem like a potential threat. But one of the dirtiest, most germ-infested items is right in the palm of our hands: Smartphones.

Good old-fashioned vinegar.

It’s an age-old household staple used for cooking and cleaning and it’s been flying off the shelves as shoppers stock up on pandemic supplies.

READ MORE: COVID-19: How effective are household cleaners in fighting coronavirus?

But experts warn, before you scrub down your entire home with diluted vinegar to rid a potential coronavirus, it likely isn’t potent enough.

Global Edmonton put some cleaning questions to Dr. David Evans, a professor in the department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Alberta.

Q: Is vinegar and water an effective disinfectant?
A: Probably not. Although acids will inactivate viruses (vinegar is acetic acid), it’s quite dilute and the pH isn’t likely low enough.
Q:. What and where is the best way to wipe down and clean?
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A: The experts basically offer commonsense, all the places you touch frequently. So door handles and door knobs, remotes, your phone. Also any horizontal surfaces if someone has been coughing or sneezing. Laundering sheets and towels in hot water with common detergents will pretty much kill most viruses.
How to clean surfaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19
How to clean surfaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Q: How often should you be disinfecting?

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A: Very hard to say. If you wipe things down and everyone has washed their hands, you probably don’t need to do it again until you once again return from the stores or wherever. Of course if someone is sick, that’s different and you should talk to your health care provider.
Q: What do you do if you can’t find disinfectant wipes?
A: Soap and water works on a cloth too. Nice hot water and soapy disinfectant used as directed would likely be a good substitute. Rinse well with clean warm water.
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Q: Is there concern right now about overusing anti-bacterial products? Does this affect our immunity to other viruses?
A: The concern with antibacterials is mostly related to the risk of selecting for bacteria resistant to the soaps and other chemicals in those products. Viruses are much more sensitive to detergents than bacteria so one need not worry.
Q: How long does a virus like COVID-19 stay on a surface?
A: Again, hard to say as it depends on the surface, temperature and humidity. For a fine aerosol of virus, on hard surfaces, perhaps a day or two? On soft surfaces it’s difficult to establish, although drying a virus down onto such surfaces generally inactivates viruses and fixes them pretty much permanently onto the surface.  A big glob of virus in mucus on a tissue might last much longer. Bag dirty paper products and put them in the trash.
Evans points to a recent discussion published by the New England Journal of Medicine that analyzed the time it takes for COVID-19 to lose half of the infectivity.
“The important thing to remember is that one virus particle is not going to succeed in causing an infection,” said Evans. “So after a day or so, the number of infectious particles will typically drop below the minimum needed to cause infection.”
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The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends using regular household cleaning products or a diluted bleach solution to clean frequently touched areas like toilets, bedside tables, light switches and door handles.

PHAC also recommends wiping down phones and computers with wipes containing 70 per cent alcohol and disposing those contaminated wipes in a garbage bag.